Whitewater rafting and kayaking have been recreational staples in West Virginia for over 50 years. What started as a dream among three brothers from Pennsylvania is now one of the most lucrative industries in the state.

  • 1968 – West Virginia’s whitewater rafting industry became a major tourism driver for the state in 1968 when whitewater pioneer Jon Dragan and his brothers founded Wildwater Expeditions Unlimited.
  • 1977 – By 1977 the New River Gorge Bridge was completed, making getting to the area easier than ever before. 
  • 1978 – The New River was declared a National River in 1978 by the National Park Service. 
  • 1980 – The first New River Gorge Bridge Day was held on November 8. Now one of the state’s largest events, the first Bridge Day featured two parachutists that jumped from a plane onto the bridge. Another five parachutists jumped from the bridge into the gorge. 
  • 1988 – The Gauley River National Recreation Area was established in 1988, protecting 25 miles of the Gauley River and six miles of the Meadow River. 
  • 2018 – Proud West Virginians rafters, non-native rafters, and everyone in between celebrated 50 years of being on the water in our incredible outdoor playground.